Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: Albany Daily News. Posted by Ryan Frost
Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Ryan Frost
Gangrel in WWE
Currently Known For:
1994 - 2001
February 16, 1969
Gangrel in WWE
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David Heath isn’t really a convincing name for a vampire, but Gangrel sure is. Heath hadn’t always been a vampire character in the WWE, though. Long before that, he was training in Florida and wrestling on the independent circuit with Tom Nash, working as a tag team known as the The Blackhearts. At the time, Nash was married to Luna Vachon, who wound up being the manager for the team.
The team would break up in the early 1990s, and Nash and Luna Vachon would also break up as the two divorced. Vachon was given a job with the WWE in 1993 while Heath was still in the United States Wrestling Association and even started a relationship with Heath. WWE fans got their first glimpse of Heath when he and Vachon were married, showing a segment that portrayed him as a vampire, a gimmick that Heath had adopted after breaking away from Nash.
The same year of his wedding, Heath made the move to WWE as The Black Phantom working on the lower end of the card for a brief period of time. Then, Heath would follow his wife to Extreme Championship Wrestling before he made his way to WCW for a short time. Once Vachon returned to WWE in 1997, it was only a matter of time before Heath followed with her.
That time would come in 1998, in the heart of WWE’s Attitude Era. Strange gimmicks weren’t being created too much by this part of the decade, but some of the writers had faith that Heath’s vampire gimmick would work on the big stage. It was then that they gave him the moniker Gangrel, and he certainly turned a lot of heads.
Gangrel would come out to the ring with a goblet filled with blood (which thankfully wasn’t real) and was involved with some major storylines with the likes of The Undertaker. Shortly into Gangrel’s initial run, we were introduced to a pair of his proteges with Edge and Christian, both of which would go on to massive solo success in their post-vampire days. The group was known as The Brood, and Gangrel also found himself with The Hardy Boyz, known as The New Brood.
Gangrel almost didn’t get to use his vampire gimmick in the beginning, as Gangrel explains “Vince McMahon himself told me that they would never use a vampire character...It was Vince Russo (WWE writer) that somehow got a little bit of control and slid it in there. When they signed me they told me don’t get upset because we are going to send you home and you are probably going to sit at home for about a year and don’t worry.”
He added that “(Vince Russo) came up with the entrance. It all happened on a Friday night and it debuted on a Sunday or that Monday...They came up with the lift and the fire and what I had influence over was the outfit, the goblet, the spraying of the blood, but the entrance with the ring and the fire was all Vince Russo. It’s because we are all KISS (the band) fans and it’s kind of a tribute to KISS.”
Gangrel then went solo once again in 1999 and had his wife manage him, and he was certainly a serviceable wrestler for a few years. Interestingly enough, though, Gangrel would never win a championship in his years with WWE. In 2001, he was let go from the company and forced to go out on his own.
It took some time for Heath to be able to use the Gangrel name, so he wrestled as Vampire Warrior for a brief period, but has been known as Gangrel for more than a decade once again. “They messed up when they put that name on me and it was copyright written with White Wolf (a game). So they had to lease the name from them for five years.” At a ruling, Gangrel says “When the judge hit the gavel he said that the guy who has been wrestling as Gangrel for the last 15 years, he’s Gangrel. There are so many different licenses that WWE won’t touch the name Gangrel or mention it. You will see in the WWE Encyclopedia they changed the name to David Heath.”
We’ve seen Gangrel re-appear on WWE television several times as he’s made four returns, even if not all of his matches made it to a national audience. His last appearance in the ring came in 2007, but he’s certainly kept himself busy over the years.
Gangrel and Vachon would end up getting a divorce in 2006, and she would sadly pass away four years later. In 2008, Gangrel married Kiara Dillon, and the two were together for five years before getting divorced. Now at 48 years old and with two children, you can actually still watch Gangrel wrestle as he’s appearing at independent shows around the United States. Some of the more notable promotions that he’s appeared with include House of Hardcore and West Coast Wrestling Connection.
Looking back on his career with the WWE, Gangrel says that he doesn’t regret the decision. He almost ended up with All-Japan Pro Wrestling on a contract before Vachon convinced him to try out with the company she was with. “In the long run that was probably the best move because the Attitude Era blew up in 1998 and that’s probably why if it wasn’t for Japan I probably wouldn’t be wrestling today...The Attitude Era has kept me flowing and was just so huge that a lot of the guys out there aren’t working anymore so the few guys that can work get out there and work because there is so much work for us,” he said.
Gangrel also knew that his solo career wasn’t going to be as big as one of his teammates as soon as they were teamed up. “The whole Brood thing was just to get Edge over (with the fans),” he said. “I don’t think they expected us to get over and they didn’t know what to do with us when it took off...But it was just a vessel to get Edge over - they knew from day one that Edge was the future for them.”
Gangrel has also opened his own wrestling academy called Gangrel’s Wrestling Asylum in Florida, teaching younger wrestlers the business while he still works in the ring. He spends most of his time there in the Fort Lauderdale area, so if you take the trip down to Florida, you might be able to get covered in fake blood while sitting in the first few rows...while getting a handshake and an autograph afterward.